Weekend Report: Tough On The Road for Stars
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars continue to find life tough in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 with two defeats on the road at the weekend at Sheffield Steeldogs and Hull Pirates.
Billingham went into the weekend short of experienced players all over the ice, especially at the back, with Richie Thornton, Dave Thomas, Ross Hanlon, Darren Stattersfield, Ben Davison, Jack Davies, Luke Brown, James Flavell and James Moss all missing from Saturday’s squad. Matthew Campbell reverted to defence to bolster the blue line and youngsters Josh Nertney, Alex Preston and James Hellens were all given regular shifts. Although Preston was the first to trouble Steeldogs netminder Brandon Stones in the second minute, it was the home side who got on the score sheet first, Andrew Hirst left alone out front to slot home with just under three minutes played. In the fourth minute Artūrs Ozols blasted just past the post, then at the other end a minute later Stars goaltender Mark Watson tracked the puck well to deny Adrian Palak. In the eighth minute Liam Charnock saw his slap shot blocked by Watson’s pad, three minutes later it was the visitors on the offensive as Deniss Baškatovs released Michael Bowman, Stones juggling the puck before it nestled in his glove. From the resulting face off the puck fell to Chris Sykes who arrowed his shot straight into the top corner to level the game. By far Billingham’s best spell of the game, Baškatovs was put through by Bowman in the 13th minute but hesitated over his shot long enough for Stones to deal with the danger comfortably. The hosts reasserted themselves and moved ahead in the 16th minute, the defence missing and Watson committed allowing Lloyd Gibson to score. The Stars should have gone into the dressing rooms on level terms but a fantastic stick save from Stones with a little over a minute to go denied Michael Elder.
Billingham tried to get back into the game early in the second session, Bowman’s 22nd minute effort deflected over the bar, but a minute later Sheffield increased their lead when Charlie Thompson found the bottom corner past Watson’s outstretched leg. Steeldogs landed the sucker punch less than a minute after the restart when Milan Kolena squeezed his effort inside the near post. The Stars tried to respond, Jack Emerson sliding one just past the far post in the 26th minute, but they had to wait until six minutes later before they got one back in fine style, Baškatovs with the inch-perfect pass for Sykes to knock in out of the air. Individual errors cost Billingham once again in the 35th minute, leading to Palak’s shot across the net finding the bottom corner, then three minutes later the gap was increased to four as a Steeldogs breakout was finished by Cam Brownley.
Watson continued to see plenty of action as the third period played out, a great stop on the wraparound denying Palak in the 45th minute then two minutes later blocking a Charnock effort with his chest. Just before the 50-minute mark Ozols skated through the whole Sheffield team but fanned on the final shot, Steeldogs collecting the puck and taking it immediately to the other end of the ice where Gibson was denied by Watson. In the 52nd minute Cal Davies teed up linemate Elder but his one-time effort found Stones’ middle, then a minute later Watson had the measure of Gibson once again with a great glove save. The Stars continued to press and eventually got their reward in the 54th minute when Elder slotted home his own rebound from just out front. Andy Finn rang the pipes in the 58th minute then the last minute of the game saw a goal for both sides as first Kolena tapped in at the back stick before Emerson netted a consolation marker with 19 seconds left on the clock.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Chris Sykes.
Milan Kolena 2+1; Lloyd Gibson 1+3; Andrew Hirst 1+2; Cameron Brownley 1+1; Charlie Thompson 1+0; Adrian Palak 1+0; Ben Morgan 0+2; Jamie Scott 0+1; Ashley Calvert 0+1
SOG: Brandon Stones 29 (7 / 12 / 10)
Chris Sykes 2+0; Michael Elder 1+1; Jack Emerson 1+0; Callum Davies 0+2; Deniss Baškatovs 0+2; Artūrs Ozols 0+1; Michael Bowman 0+1; Tom Keeley 0+1
SOG: Mark Watson 49 (21 / 17 / 11)
On Sunday the Stars welcomed back Ben Davison from suspension but had to release Preston to play for the under-20s in Nottingham. Hull came out flying, Watson with a double save with just 70 seconds gone, then on the two-minute mark Sam Towner put one just over the bar. The home side opened the scoring seconds later in controversial fashion however, referee William Hewitt putting his arm up for what Billingham thought would be a call against the Pirates. The penalty was actually on Baškatovs for hooking and with the Stars static Lee Bonner slotted home for 1-0. The injustice seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and play was almost entirely conducted in the Billingham defensive zone for much of the remainder of the period. Watson made a pad save from Matty Davies in the fourth minute, then three minutes later the defence lost the puck in the corner and it was thrown out front for James Archer to find the back of the net. In the eighth minute Towner squared the puck perfectly for Josh Gent to poke it under Watson, the Stars lucky not to be further behind two minutes later when again the defence lost possession in front of the net but Watson was alive to the danger and able to smother. In a rare attacking manoeuvre in the 16th minute, Elder collected the puck in his own zone and got past his man on the boards, netminder Zack Brown with the save at the near post. The period belonged to the hosts however, and they rounded it off with 90 seconds to play when Towner was allowed to circle the net unchallenged to fire straight past Watson.
The middle session started as the last finished as in the 22nd minute no one picked up Towner lurking on the back stick, his one timer putting the Pirates five ahead. A hooking call against Scott Ward a minute later was punished almost immediately by Matty Davies. Billingham changed their netminder in the 25th minute, Callum Reynolds taking over from Watson between the pipes. The visitors got a power play opportunity three minutes later, however they squandered possession in their own zone and gave Towner too much time on the puck to pick out Bonner on the near post for the one timer. Seven down with over half the game still to go, the Stars had nothing but pride to play for, Ozols with a couple of chances in the 30th and 37th minutes. The period closed with two further goals for the rampant home side, Bobby Chamberlain eventually putting it away after multiple failures to clear in the 38th minute then 30 seconds later Cain Taylor looped one over Reynolds to send the sorry Stars back in 9-0 down.
Bowman was called for hooking early in the final session and his transgression was punished in the 42nd minute when Chamberlain fired through Reynolds’ pads. Reynolds was seeing plenty of rubber as he smothered from Gent in the 44th minute, then denied Archer and Kieran Beach in quick succession in the 46th minute. Billingham wanted to get something back and started to play with more energy and purpose, Nertney seeing his high shot saved in the 47th minute. With less than eight minutes left the Stars finally broke Brown’s shutout as Baškatovs shot across the net to register the visitors’ solitary marker. Reynolds flashed the glove three times as the clock wound down to the buzzer, but could not keep out Chamberlain who grabbed his hat trick with a little under three minutes to play with a backhand effort under the young netminder. 11-1 the final score.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Jack Emerson.
Bobby Chamberlain 3+1; Sam Towner 2+2; Lee Bonner 2+2; Matty Davies 1+4; James Archer 1+2; Josh Gent 1+2; Cain Taylor 1+0; James Chilcott 0+2; Lee Haywood 0+1; Tom Stubley 0+1
SOG: Zack Brown 8 (1 / 4 / 3 - SOG incomplete)
Deniss Baškatovs 1+0; Chris Sykes 0+1; Michael Bowman 0+1
SOG: Mark Watson 30 (26 / 4); Callum Reynolds 26 (10 / 16)
Billingham's Director of Coaching Terry Ward could not find much to be positive about after Sunday’s hammering:
"We weren’t at the races at all tonight. We did a little better in the last period but the first two were terrible. I won’t excuse the performance but you can’t have so many players missing from your team – the lads gave everything they had last night and tonight they’re burnt out. In that respect we couldn’t ask any more, the players we’ve had out there have given it their all.”
The Stars travel to Solway Sharks for a National Cup Group A fixture on Saturday 14th October (face off 7pm) before hosting Whitley Warriors in the first Tyne-Tees derby of the season in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 at the Forum on Sunday 15th October (face off 6.30pm).
Telford Tigers 7 Blackburn Hawks 0
Solway Sharks 4 Solihull Barons 2
Sheffield Steeldogs 7 Billingham Stars 4
Whitley Warriors 3 Telford Tigers 6
Hull Pirates 11 Billingham Stars 1
Solihull Barons 4 Nottingham Lions 5
National Cup Group A:
Blackburn Hawks 4 Solway Sharks 2